Top 3 Tips to Prepare for Your Session

Top 3 Tips

If I only had 10 seconds to give you the most important things to consider when getting ready for your photoshoot, I would tell you this:

  1. Have an extra set of hands.
  2. Ensure a cooperative horse.
  3. Don’t try new things.

Have more than 10 seconds? Let me expand a bit and give you a bonus tip.

Studio Portrait Black Horse with Extra Hands

1. An extra set of hands.

Get to the barn with enough time to prepare and bring a friend or family member for help. This can alleviate rushing and prevent your excited nerves from turning into stress nerves.

Prepare your horse as if going to a horse show. Give your horse plenty of time to dry after their bath.

Click here for more information on Getting Your Horse Camera Ready.

Finish getting your horse ready before you get yourself dressed. Take a few minutes to breathe and relax before changing.

Let your extra hands take care of last-minute details. You don’t want to get dirty or sweaty cleaning your horse before the session begins.

You should have a few items with you for your horse during the session that your helper can carry: clean rags, soft brush, extra fly spray, hoof pick, rubber bands if you braided, treats, and a small bucket to put it all in.

Beginning your photoshoot relaxed and prepared will set the tone when starting your session.

Your photographer will likely have an assistant to help get your horse’s ears up, but it is always helpful to have additional hands during your session. They can hold extra items, adjust your horse’s position, and keep you both looking flawless.

dark haired girl laying on neck of chestnut horse

2. Ensure a cooperative horse

It may seem simple to us, but the unusual requests of an equine photoshoot can be strange or even frustrating to your horse.

Photoshoots, while not physically demanding, can be mentally exhausting for horses. Even the most patient horses can get annoyed at all of the stopping, standing, and repositioning that is done during a session.

Consider a hard workout the day before, and lunging your horse on the day of your photoshoot. The goal is not to wear them out completely, but to help get rid of excess energy so they will be more cooperative and less likely to fidget.

Many horses have a regular routine of going in and out for meals, being groomed, and are ridden in the same areas. During a photoshoot, they are asked to do things that are out of the ordinary.

Stand in the middle of a field on grass they can’t eat. Walk down a driveway they have never gone down before. Stop and stand still down a path that they normally never halt on.

Move forward a few steps, back up a few steps. Slide the hindquarters over a bit here, bring the neck around there. And do it all with your ears up.

Experienced trail or show horses who are used to going to strange places and standing around for extended periods may not need a lot of preparation.

However, taking some time to brush up on your horse’s ground manners in the days and weeks leading up to your session is always a good idea.

Man on horse with cowboy helmet

The better your horse stands, the more variety and options you will have during your session.

Make sure your horse is willing to walk to areas of the farm they may not normally visit. They should be able to stand next to you quietly for several minutes in various places. Ensure that you can easily reposition your horse’s shoulders and hindquarters both left and right.

Horses will frequently circle in front of and around the person holding them when they don’t want to stand still. Make sure you can easily back them into place again to prevent it from becoming an issue during your session.

If you want photos of your horse on their own, it is important that they be able to stand still at the end of a long lead. Practice backing away from your horse while they stay in place.

In the end, a professional equine photographer should understand horses, be able to read them well, and adjust the session according to their behavior if necessary.

But making sure your horse is as ready as can be will help you get the most out of your photoshoot.

girl riding black friesian horse with dress and wings

3. Don’t try new things

ALWAYS try anything new that you want to use or do during your photoshoot BEFORE the session.

One time, my client had purchased brand new custom tall boots. They were left in the box, intending to keep them clean and perfect for the shoot. Upon further inspection when attempting to put them on, it turned out the company had sent two left feet.

Also, practice any special setups you want to try with your horse.

The day of your photoshoot is not the time to try riding bareback for the first time.

And even if you have cantered bareback in your ring, doing it in an open field with a dress and tall grass will be a different experience.

Practice beforehand to set yourself and your horse up for success.

Bonus Tip: Have fun

Do what you can to prepare, but in the end, take a deep breath, relax, and most importantly, have fun.

This is the time to let go of any stress. Focus on the love and relationship you have with your equine partner.